HALLIE: When I was trying to finish writing NEVER TELL A LIE, I got totally stuck. I'd gotten my character locked in a windowless attic room and I could not for the life of me figure out a **believable** way of getting her out.
The answer came to me as I was driving and,for no particular reason, thinking about games I played as a kid. Candy Land--remember those amazing graphics of the gingerbread man and gumdrops? Clue, of course, with its real lead pipe in the days before toys were recalled for being toxic. Careers, a truly bizarre game where you pick a career based on how much money, fame, or happiness you want. (Turns out it was invented by a sociologist and one of its careers was "Uranium Prospecting".) And what about Go to the Head of the Class?
It was Chutes and Ladders that helped me get my character out of the attic, but I'm not telling whether it was a chute or a ladder that did it.
What were your favorite games?
RO: I remember the names of those games but don't remember playing them. Also Operation, Parcheesi, and Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots. I played a couple of card games, Royalty and Uno, but two board games stand out from my childhood.
The first is RISK. It was about global domination, kind of like Monopoly for those who thought Atlantic City (Monopoly) too limiting. I played with an older male cousin so that's probably why I thought it was cool. For some reason I always wanted to own/invade Kamchatka - or something like that. It was green..I think you could see it from Alaska.
The other game, of course, was and still is Scrabble. I am one of those annoying people who can be 200 points ahead and still agonize over the next word, and more importantly, ruin something for the next player. My husband only agrees to play a few times a year because it's too demoralizing.
I've always wanted to really know how to play mah jongg. In high school,friends and I played with somebody's mother's set. I even had my own cards (there's an annual card with the official mah jongg hands, as I recall.) But I haven't played in years. I bought a gorgeous set on Ebay a few years back and haven't used it once. So, I also bought these nifty bracelets made of vintage mah jongg tiles - I had a feeling that was going to be as close to the game as I was going to get. I just rented the movie Lust...Caution and there was a lot of mah jongg in it. (Also some pretty steamy sex, but that's another blog.)
JAN: At my house, with three older brothers, we always LOST the pieces to the board games. The only games that stayed intact were Trouble, the game where you get to send your opponent (and older brother) back to square one. That was probably my favorite. And Monopoly, which my father kept track of. Mostly, we played card games, especially during rained out vacations down the shore, and next door at my aunt's house. Crazy Eight, Rummy 500, gin Rummy. and some poker. It taught me to be a cagey competitor (hah!)
To this day, when I play cards, I like to have a glass of Coke over ice in a squat "rocks" glass. It reminds me of being a kid who felt grown up, getting to play cards with the big kids.
ROBERTA: RISK! that's what I was going to mention, too. My older sister always won, though she doesn't remember it that way. We also loved Clue, Parcheesi, Mousetrap, Monopoly, Candyland, Chutes...When on vacation at the Outer Banks in NC with my extended family, big groups of both adults and kids used to play Pounce. this involves everyone having her own deck of cards and playing solitaire with them, but all playing to the center of the table. So you were constantly scanning the cards in the center and try to bang yours down before someone else got to what you needed. It was so much fun. I'm certain the grown-ups weren't sipping on Coke in their rocks glasses:).
Recently, we have developed a family tradition of playing Boggle. In my stepfamily, as the kids got stronger and bigger, it was the only game I could win. Even that's beginning to give way:(. I had a lot of fun putting a Boggle game in ASKING FOR MURDER. Rebecca Butterman was a tad annoying to her guests, insisting on using every rule properly, and then keeping score when it was clear she was ahead. Something like your description of playing Scrabble, Ro. Remind to decline if you ask--or make sure we give you a big handicap to begin:)
HANK: Yes, RISK! That's where I learned about Irkutsk (and right, Ro, I think you can also see it from Alaska) and that Italy always loses. We also played Yahtzee. And I adored Go to the Head of the Class. I haven't thought about it for years--but wasn't it pretty much Trivial Pursuit (also fun) with desks? Mille Bornes? We were big on Charades, too, and I'll admit I still love to play it. Another good after-dinner game is Celebrity--do you guys know it?
We also used to make up games as kids, the main goal of which was so that my little sister Nancy would lose. My sister Nina and I would say--hey, Nanc, want to play "Hawaii?" And she, dupe, who wanted to be with the big kids, would say yes.
Then we'd get out the card and proceed to pretend to be playing a game. And then just make up random rules. "Oh, we forgot to say 8's are wild, but only if they're red. You lose again."
We also tormented her in Scrabble. We'd put down any old word-looking combination of letters, and then tell her it was Russian, and Russian words were fair. (She's a very happy and successful person now, don't worry.)
I do adore Scrabble. Or I should say, I used to. When I used to win. But my husband is killer at Scrabble, and it's no fun when I'm making perfectly good words, and then he puts some triple-score word with z and x in it, a doozy that also uses two lines, and works across and down. I yell "Earthquake, earthquake!" and so much for the board.
Roberta, you could probably make something of this...
HALLIE: What is it you ladies had for world domination? I had an Annie Oakley rifle... And I know CELEBRITY. Still love charades. And am a pissy loser at Scrabble, too.
Roberta, loved the way you used BOGGLE in "Asking for Murder" which I just read on the plane back from the lovely Surrey International Writers Conference in Vancouver.
Please, let us know--what are the games you loved to play?